Saturday, May 09, 2009

Beatle People: Maharishi Mahesh Yogi

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (January 12, 1918 – February 5, 2008), introduced the Transcendental Meditation technique and related programs and initiatives, including schools and universities with campuses in India, the United States, Mexico, the United Kingdom and China.

In approximately 1939, the Maharishi became a disciple of Swami Brahmananda Saraswati, who, from 1941 to 1953, was the Shankaracharya (spiritual leader) of Jyotir Math, located in the Indian Himalayas. The Maharishi credits the Shankaracharya (Guru Dev) with inspiring his teachings.

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi's first global tour began in 1958, from which time his techniques and programs have been taught worldwide. He became known in the Western world in part due to interactions with The Beatles and other celebrities.

By 1990, the Maharishi had begun to coordinate his global activities from his residence in Vlodrop, the Netherlands. On January 11, 2008, he announced his retirement from all administrative activities and went into Mauna (spiritual silence). He declared: "It has been my pleasure at the feet of Guru Dev, to take the light of Guru Dev and pass it on in my environment. Now today, I am closing my designed duty to Guru Dev. And I can only say, 'Live long the world in peace, happiness, prosperity, and freedom from suffering.'”

Early life

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi was born Mahesh Prasad Varma, in the Panduka area of Raipur, India, to a Hindu family living in the Central Provinces of British India (although the Allahabad University list of distinguished alumni calls him "M.C. Shrivastava"). He earned a degree in physics at Allahabad University. Place of birth given in his passport is "Pounalulla," India. The name of his father is given as Sri Ram Prasad.

According to Jay Randolph Coplin, the name "Mahesh" indicated that the Maharishi came from a Hindu family that worshipped Shiva. Cynthia Ann Humes writes that his family was of the Kayastha (scribal) caste. Contrary to some reports, caste rules allow the honorific terms "yogi" or "maharishi" to be applied to those of the Kayastha caste.

In 1941, he became a secretary to Swami Brahmananda Saraswati, who gave him the name Bal Brahmachari Mahesh. Besides indicating his family faith, Coplin says the conferred title "identified him as a dedicated student of spiritual knowledge and life-long celibate ascetic." Maharishi remained with Brahmananda Saraswati until the latter died in 1953. Although the Maharishi was a close disciple, he could not be the Shankaracharya's spiritual successor because he was not of the Brahmin caste.

In 1953, the Maharishi moved to Uttarkashi, in the Valley of the Saints, in the Himalayas, where his own master had lived in previous decades with his Master, Swami Krishanand Saraswati. In 1955, the Maharishi left Uttarkashi, and began publicly teaching what he states is a traditional meditation technique that he learned from his master, which he called Transcendental Deep Meditation. He later renamed it Transcendental Meditation. He began The Spiritual Regeneration Movement in 1957, in Madras, India, on the concluding day of the Seminar of Spiritual Luminaries. According to J. Lynwood King, the feedback Maharishi received from the diverse population that learned his technique suggested to him that it could be of wide benefit. In 1958 the Maharishi began the first of a number of worldwide tours.

Expansion of teachings

World tours

His first world tour began in Rangoon, Burma, now Myanmar. The Maharishi remained in the Far East for about six months teaching Transcendental Meditation. On December 31, 1958, the Honolulu Star Bulletin published an article about Maharishi saying: "He has no money, he asks for nothing. His worldly possessions can be carried in one hand. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi is on a world odyssey. He carries a message that he says will rid the world of all unhappiness and discontent."

In 1959, the Maharishi taught the Transcendental Meditation technique in Hawaii and later went to California and became a guest in a private home owned by the Olson family. He continued to visit and teach from the Olsons' home over the next few years.

During the 1960s and early 1970s, practitioners of the technique began to be seen as part of the then current "counter-culture" phenomenon. Also during that time, a number of celebrities that included The Beatles, the Beach Boys (including singer Mike Love, who became a TM teacher) and singer-songwriter Donovan (who befriended the Maharishi and put his picture on the back cover of his A Gift from a Flower to a Garden album) learned the technique. Comedian Andy Kaufman and magician Doug Henning were also students of the Maharishi. Howard Stern also practices TM and credits the Maharishi for saving his mother from depression. Clint Eastwood and David Lynch are two notable directors who have practiced the Transcendental Meditation technique. Republican Party politician William Scranton, another student of the Maharishi, lost his 1986 bid for the Pennsylvania governorship when political consultant James Carville ran a television spot about Mr. Scranton's affiliation with the "guru." In October 1975, the Maharishi was pictured on the front cover of the US magazine Time.

Transcendental Meditation teachers

After establishing the Spiritual Regeneration Movement in the United States, the Maharishi continued his world tour. He traveled to Europe in early 1960, stopping first in London. During the next two years, he returned to India and the Far East, before revisiting the US, Europe, and Africa. He lectured about, and taught the Transcendental Meditation technique, and also established administrative centers where practitioners could meet in his absence. Eventually the more experienced practitioners were trained to become teachers of the technique. In 1961, he conducted his first international Teacher Training Course near Rishikesh, India. Over 60 meditators from India, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Britain, Malaya, Norway, the United States, Australia, Greece, Italy and the West Indies attended. Teachers continue to be trained.

Early books

In 1961, the Maharishi began to introduce additional knowledge regarding the development of human potential, including a translation and commentary on the first six chapters of the ancient Vedic text, the Bhagavad Gita. The Maharishi said that the source of his commentary was his master and the increasing interest in Vedic knowledge: "We are just an innocent means for the spontaneous flow of that knowledge -- that's all."

In his 1963 publication, the Maharishi describes the Bhagavad Gita as "the Scripture of Yoga." He says that "its purpose is to explain in theory and practice all that is needed to raise the consciousness of man to the highest possible level." In 1964, the Maharishi attended the All-India Yogic Conference held in Calcutta, India, where he said that because the teachings contained in the Bhagavad Gita were misunderstood, "the practice of yoga was misunderstood, misinterpreted, and misapplied," resulting in "weakness in the fields of thought and action."

While working on his translation and commentary of the Bhagavad Gita, the Maharishi audiotaped the text of the The Science of Being and Art of Living which was transcribed and published in 1963.

Advanced programs

Over a 30-year period the Maharishi held advanced, in-residence courses and assemblies in North America, India and/or Europe for practitioners of the Transcendental Meditation technique. These courses provided long meditation sessions, lectures by Maharishi, discussions based on personal experiences, questions from course participants, and organizational meetings. Maharishi believed that this group practice of the technique benefited the environment. In-residence courses continue to this day.

In the late 1970s, the Maharishi designed the TM-Sidhi program as an additional option for those who had been practicing the Transcendental Meditation technique for longer periods of time. According to Coplin, this new aspect of knowledge emphasized not only the individual, but also the collective benefits created by group practice of this advanced program.


Maharishi Vedic Science, or MVS, is based on Maharishi Mahesh Yogi's interpretation of the ancient Vedic texts. MVS includes two aspects, practical, experiential, mental aspects - the Transcendental Meditation technique and more advanced program the TM-Sidhi Program, as well as the applications of this theory to life.

These applications include programs in: Maharishi Vedic Approach to Health (MVAH), Maharishi Sthapatya Veda, a mathematical system for the design and construction of buildings, Maharishi Gandharva Veda, a form of classical Indian music, Maharishi Jyotish (also known as Maharishi Vedic Astrology) a system claiming the evaluation of life tendencies of an individual, Maharishi Vedic Agriculture, a trademarked process for producing fresh, organic food, and Consciousness-Based Education.

Other initiatives, projects and programs

Maharishi International University (renamed Maharishi University of Management in 1995), the first university Maharishi founded, initially held classes in Santa Barbara, California, in the 1973-74 academic year. After that, the university moved to Fairfield, Iowa, where it remains today. The university houses a library of the Maharishi's taped lectures and writings that includes the 33-lesson, Science of Creative Intelligence course, originally a series of lectures given by the Maharishi in Fiuggi, Italy, in 1972. Described in the M.U.M. university catalog as combining modern science, and Vedic science, the course also describes certain higher states of consciousness, and guidance on how to attain these states.

The Maharishi also introduced theories of management, defense, and government programs said to alleviate poverty, and introduced a new development currency, Raam Mudra, toward this end. Also, in 2000, the Maharishi began building "peace palace" sites across the world, and by 2008 his movement had constructed at least eight in the US alone.

The Beatles

The Beatles met Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in August 1967, studying with him in Bangor, Wales, and in early 1968 attended a TM teacher-training course in Rishikesh, India. (Much of their "White Album" was written during their stay in Rishikesh.) While Starr and McCartney left the Maharishi's camp for personal reasons, Lennon and Harrison departed after hearing a story that he had made sexual advances on Mia Farrow or other course participants. John Lennon wrote the song "Sexy Sadie" ("what have you done? You made a fool of everyone") as he was leaving, the lyrics referring to the Maharishi. "Magic" Alex Mardas had relayed the story to John and George, who felt betrayed by the Maharishi. Cynthia Lennon believed that Mardas invented a story about sexual impropriety to undermine the Maharishi's influence on the Beatles. George Harrison, years later, commented on the contretemps, saying, "Now, historically, there's the story that something went on that shouldn't have done—but nothing did." Paul McCartney, in his biography, likewise says that he does not believe the allegations and also attributes them to Mardas. Farrow's autobiography is ambiguous about the incident: she describes "panicking" and fleeing after the Maharishi put his arms around her in a dark cave, immediately after a private meditation session, and that "at my level of consciousness, if Jesus Christ Himself had embraced me, I would have misinterpreted it."

After the Maharishi's death on February 5, 2008, Sir Paul McCartney released a statement saying, "Whilst I am deeply saddened by his passing, my memories of him will only be joyful ones. He was a great man who worked tirelessly for the people of the world...." Ringo Starr released a statement saying, "One of the wise men I met in my life was the Maharishi. I always was impressed by his joy and I truly believe he knows where he is going."

On 5 February 2008, the Beatles' "Across the Universe" was beamed across the universe by NASA to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the song, the 45th anniversary of the DSN (Deep Space Network), and the 50th anniversary of NASA. A part of the lyric are the words 'Jai Guru Deva' - a Sanskrit phrase that the Maharishi had taught the Beatles, which means "Hail divine teacher."

Both Paul McCartney and Ringo Star commented on April 3, 2009, in a press conference prior to their performance in the David Lynch Foundation benefit concert ”Change Begins Within”, that Transcendental Meditation was a gift they had received from Maharishi at a time they were looking something to stabilize them. The concert, headlined by McCartney, was created to raise funds to support the teaching of one million children around the world the Transcendental Meditation technique.


On 5 February 2008 at Vlodrop, Netherlands, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi died peacefully in his sleep of natural causes. The Agni Samadhi Vedic rites were conducted on a high plateau, on the grounds of a temple the Maharishi had been in the process of building in homage to his Master, and overlooked the confluence of the Ganges in Allahabad. The funeral was carried by Sadhana TV station and was presided over by the Shankaracharya of the North, Swami Vasudevananda Saraswati Maharaj. During the military salute, the soldiers reversed arms but did not fire a salute in honor of the Maharishi's life-long dedication to the creation of world peace. (And as reported by Sadhana TV station, 11 February 2008.)

Awards and Citations

According to a publication by Maharishi European Research University, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi was the recipient of awards and citations during his lifetime. Some of these are: Man of Hope award, 1970, City of Hope, California, Golden Medal of the City of Delphi, Greece, key to the City of Houston, Texas, USA, key to the City of Los Angeles, California, USA, and honorary citizenship to the City of Winnipeg, Canada. Proclamations given by governing bodies include ones given by Governor Dan Walker of Illinois, and by Members of the Parliament of India.


Maharishi Mahesh Yogi is credited as the author of more than 16 books.

* Celebrating Perfection in Administration

* Celebrating Perfection in Education: Dawn of Total Knowledge

* Constitution of India fulfilled through Maharishi's Transcendental Meditation: Maharishi's Constitution of the Universe, Rk Veda--Total Natural Law that ... Meditation Documented by Scientific Research

* Enlightenment and Invincibility

* Ideal India-the Lighthouse of Peace on Earth

* Inaugurating Maharishi Vedic University

* Maharishi Forum of Natural Law and National Law for Doctors: Perfect Health for Everyone-Disease-Free Society

* Maharishi Mahesh Yogi on the Bhagavad-Gita : A New Translation and Commentary, Chapters 1-6

* Maharishi Speaks to Educators: Mastery Over Natural Law

* Maharishi Speaks to Students: Mastery Over Natural Law

* Maharishi University of Management--Wholeness on the Move

* Maharishi Vedic University--Introduction

* Maharishi's Absolute Theory of Defence-Sovereignty in Invincibility

* Maharishi's Absolute Theory of Government-Automation in Administration

* Science of Being and Art of Living: Transcendental Meditation



Peter Cameron said...

This is one of the best posts I have read about Maharishi and the Beatles brief encounter, the outcome of which has had a profoundly positive influence on my life......
In 1964 I started a rock group, inspired by the Beatles. In 1970, I began practicing the TM technique inspired initially by the Beatles endorsement of TM. 2 years later I was trained by Maharishi to teach his TM program to others, inspired by my own personal experiences of transformation and the evidence that was beginning to appear in the scientific literature.
On April 4th 2009, I attended the Radio City Music Hall in New York inspired to hear Ringo and Paul play in the "Change Begins Within", David Lynch Foundation Benefit Concert and the whole incredible adventure came back full circle!!!!!
I cannot find words to express how greatful I feel to everyone I have met as I have travelled on this path. I only hope that I can continue giving out what I have been experiencing inspired my daily dives into what Maharishi liked to call the "bliss consciouness that lies within each of us, at the source of thought."
Jai Guru Dev
Peter Cameron
Halifax, Nova Scotia

Toni said...

This is one of the most intelligent articles I have read about the Beatles' connection to Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. I have practiced the Transcendental Meditation technique for over 36 years, and I have the greatest respect for all that Maharishi has done around the world.

I want to thank Paul and Ringo for their participation in the concert in NYC in April. Raising funds so that young people can learn the TM technique and raise their quality of life is a very worthy cause.

Jim said...

Actually & unfortunately, no article can ever do justice to the immense global influence His Holiness Maharishi Mahesh Yogi had on the advancement and evolution of Human Life. Certainly it’s impossible to understand or believe that as Einstein, only with much greater influence, even as related to quantum mechanics, just One Man transformed the whole world so profoundly. Like a Cosmic Gardener who planted seeds of Cosmic, Profound Peace that are sprouting anew everyday and will very soon, in the next coming years; even we understand, even amidst all this current terrorism and suffering; but yes, just in the next 3-8 years lead us into a utopian civilization; a veritable Heaven on Earth as he described it. The effects of his teachings in Vedic Science, from almost every discipline taught in every area of education, on the basis of the deep scientific, provable nature of the relationship between Human Life and Universal Natural Law literally, naturally re-align all of Human-Kind back in accord with the Will of God regardless of any belief system, making the whole picture of life and the true purpose of life complete for every single human being in our world family.